Monday, April 29, 2013

Husband's *Favorite* Chocolate Cupcakes

The husband celebrates one more lap around the sun tomorrow, and when I asked him what he would like as a treat to celebrate such a milestone, he responded with, "chocolate cupcakes with coffee buttercream!" I didn't really need to ask, because the answer is the same every year. He loves this cake so much that I instinctively purchase the ingredients every April. I wish I could say that I am to credit for the recipe of his FAVORITE dessert, but alas, I am not.

When my husband and I were first married I looked far and wide for a chocolate cake recipe for his birthday. I wanted to wow him with my baking skills AND put to work my new Kitchen Aid stand mixer that I was able to purchase with wedding gift cards (thanks to awesome friends and family). I stumbled upon Barefoot Contessa's Beatty's Chocolate Cake recipe and haven't looked back. It's a winner EVERY time, and it's ridiculously easy (so much for showing off my skills)!

I don't even eat chocolate (GASP-- I know, what kind of a woman doesn't eat chocolate?  But if you suffered from severe migraines due to food allergies, you wouldn't be eager to eat chocolate either-- I'm
happy avoid it!), so when I make this recipe I freeze about 1/2 of the cupcakes/ cake for future events.

**Fun fact-- the first time I made this cake my husband ate so much of it in one day that he made himself sick-- really, I'm shocked he even still likes it**

Usually I follow Ina's recipe exactly... sometimes I will add a little a little ceylon cinnamon to add a little spice.

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup good cocoa powder (I use the special dark because my husband LOVES dark chocolate)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk (shaken)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra large eggs (room temperature-- you don't want cooked eggs in your cupcakes!)
  • 1 teaspoon pure (good) vanilla extract-- I use Madagascar vanilla from Green Man Gourmet in Avondale-- they are awesome!
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee (brings out the rich flavor of the chocolate-- cake doesn't taste much like coffee believe it or not)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin tins. 
  2. In your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix: flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa on low until combined.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla. 
  4. With the mixer on low, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. 
  5. Add the cup of hot coffee and stir only to combine (make sure to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl). 
  6. Pour batter into a glass measuring cup with spout (this will make pouring batter into muffin tins easier-- batter is very thin). Fill each muffin tin 1/2 full (no more or cake will spill over). 
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. 
  8. I swear it is just that easy!
**I usually make 1-2 dozen cupcakes and then pour the rest of the batter into small rounds, bake for about 25-30 minutes, and freeze for later occasions**

 Vanilla Coffee Buttercream
It's taken me a few times to perfect my attempts with coffee buttercream, but I do believe that this recipe is my favorite so far! I used the base of the recipe from The Kitchen is my Playground and then just made it work with what I had in my kitchen. I didn't have instant coffee, so I adapted the recipe using fresh brewed and then chilled coffee. 

  • 4 Tablespoons freshly brewed and chilled coffee 
  • 1 Tablespoon real Madagascar vanilla extract
  • 3 sticks unsalted (softened) butter
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  1. Beat softened butter in bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed for about 1 minute or until fluffy.
  2. Turn speed to low and add confectioners sugar one cup at a time (scrape down sides and make sure it is fully incorporated).
  3. Increase speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes.
  4. Add coffee and beat on low speed to combine. Scrape down sides and increase speed to medium and beat for about 4 minutes. 
  5. Fill pastry bag and have fun piping away! I added a little dark chocolate chip to the top just for a little extra decoration.
**should make enough to frost 24 cupcakes**

Happy 31st birthday to the best husband in the whole entire world. Doodle Bug and I are so lucky to have you!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Adventures in Potty Training

So the day has finally come... and much earlier than we expected... Doodle Bug is interested in the potty.

We decided awhile back that we were just going to wait and follow her cues to see when she wanted to start potty training. We didn't want to rush anything, and thought that we would just let nature and curiosity run its course. Last weekend we followed her cues... right to the toilet.

For about two months or so we have been concerned thinking that DB was constipated. She seemed like she was having a hard time going and looked to be very uncomfortable. We upped her Greek yogurt intake, added more dried fruit (especially raisins-- her fav!), encouraged an increase in her water consumption, and laced her sippy cup with a daily probiotic. I increased my water intake as well, and encouraged her to nurse more often, but with all our efforts she STILL seemed to be uncomfortable. What were we to do?? Well, we had our answer last weekend.

Last Friday, while at work, my MIL sent me a text message.
"Ev just took off her diaper and peed on the floor!"
I couldn't help but respond with,
Everyone at school thought that for sure this was a sign of readiness to toilet train, but I was skeptical.  I am a first time mom, and certainly 21 months is too early to know to potty train, right??  I mean, okay, maybe the girl just likes a little fresh air on her cheeks? So, the husband and I got a little laugh out of the floor peeing at Grammy's house episode, and then we shrugged it off as toddler exploration. Until Saturday morning that is...

DB likes to wake up at the same time every day. She has her set routine (one that neither my husband nor I could take credit for setting) and likes to stick to it. She has been going to sleep between 9-10 P.M. and waking for the day at around 7 A.M. since 3 weeks old (she still wakes to night nurse as well).  So, at around 7 in the morning last Saturday DB and I went to go play in her room. I left to make my coffee, and when I returned I could tell she was struggling to have a BM. Her little face gets so red, and she arches her back, and it just looks like an all around horrible experience. I was frustrated-- why was she STILL struggling after all the changes to her diet??? And then I realized something, maybe she just doesn't WANT to go. Maybe she doesn't like the feel of poop in her diaper... I mean, who would??

With my new found revelation on hand, I decided to put my theory to work. Recently (with in the past month or two) DB's communication skills have taken off. She went from saying only a few words (dada, mommy, pup, Nana, Pop, Granky (for Grampy), ball, egg, etc.) to speaking in full sentences. Last week she turned to me and said, "I'm going to go read a book." I almost cried. I mean my daughter, my "little tiny baby" as we call her is speaking-- fluently. Plus, the English teacher inside jumps for joy anytime I see her WANTING to read. I digress.

I decided to ask DB questions to see if I could get to the bottom of her uncomfortable situation. I asked, "do you need to go poopy?" She nodded yes. I continued. "Would you like to go sit on the big potty like mommy and daddy do when they need to use the restroom?" She nodded yes. Now, she knows all about the toilet because we always take her into the bathroom to flush the waste from her dirty diapers. She waves "bye, bye," and we flush. She also sometimes accompanies me to the bathroom when my husband has late track meets or soccer games. She is a wild one, and if left alone for even 1/2 a minute she will have found a way to scale a wall, or the entertainment center, or dining room table (yes, this has happened- more than once). She loves to flush the toilet and always claps and says, "yay! I did it!"

not actually using the restroom here
So, without hoping TOO much, I took her to the restroom. I sat her on the pot, and within a minute... well, it's all history from there! I was right... she wasn't constipated anymore! She was literally holding it in because she didn't want to poop her pants. She didn't have the vocabulary to ask us to go to the potty, but now she does.

I went and bought the most adorable froggy training potty for her, and we have been working on encouraging her to use it. She understands what it is used for, but has only really had one other successful attempt-- though she did need a little help from her friend Go Dog Go. **she is not actually using the restroom in the picture to the right. She is reenacting the 2nd successful potty event from Thursday night. I read her the book while she sat on the pot, and then yesterday she ran back to the potty with her book to read... haha!**

DB's Montessori Room
On Monday she asked to go "pee pee" and ran to her room. We have a Montessori style playroom/ bedroom for her, so the toilet area is in her room. I opened her door, took off her diaper, and she placed herself on the potty. About a minute later she got distracted by her own image in the mirror (vain much??) and stood up to go talk to "the baby." Needless to say, she peed on the floor. But, at least she asked to go to the potty, right?

So, the adventure in potty training has just begun in our home, but since we are following her cues  and not forcing the issue, it has not been difficult or stressful. We just take it (like everything else that accompanies parenting) one day at a time. My mom told me I was her earliest to potty train, and that I showed an interest at about 23 months and was potty trained by my 2nd birthday. Maybe big girl underwear will be in the works as a 2nd birthday present :)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Track Meet Muffins

What to do with leftover bananas from the husband's high school district track meet? Make banana muffins! I didn't already have a recipe that I LOVED, so I searched banana muffin recipes on my All Recipes app on my nifty I Phone until I found one that I could use as a base recipe. The recipe I decided on had a five star rating (with 2,058 ratings under its belt)! Wow, if that many people were impressed, I knew I just had to try it!

This was a use whatever is in the pantry/ refrigerator recipe, so I tried to add a little something for each one of us to make it incorporate our favorite flavors. For Doodle Bug I added raisins, for the husband I added my homemade spice blend, and for myself I added dried apricots and craisins. I always like to add in yummy extras to suit my family's taste buds.I also took the liberty of squeezing in a little iron and omega 3 by adding flax :)

This recipe is super easy! I'll include the original recipe ingredient list first-- then I will add my extra ingredients spin on it.

Base recipe from All Recipes:
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg 
  • 1/3 cup butter (softened)
What I added:
  • 1/2 cup organic flaxseed meal 
  • a handful of rasisins
  • a handful of craisins 
  • a handful of dried apricots
  • 1/2 teaspoon homemade Pumpkin Pie spice blend (you can find my recipe here)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ceylon cinnamon (once you go Ceylon, you NEVER go back!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract
  • Preheat oven to 350 and prepare muffin tins.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment,cream softened butter and sugar
  • add mashed banana
  • add vanilla extract 
  • add egg
  • In a small bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and spice blend.
  • Fold in flour mixture, dried fruit, and flax (do not over mix-- will make tough muffins)
  • For large muffins-- bake for 20-25 minutes or until inserted toothpick is clean
Yield:  approximately 17 large muffins